Mental health scheme blocked by department

A scheme to help young people deal with mental health issues is being “blocked” by the Department of Public Expenditure, it can be revealed.

Four departments have agreed on how to fund and run a new coordinated “pathfinder” programme for young people with mental health problems. However, it is being held up by Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe’s department.

Jim Daly, the minister of state for mental health, has revealed that the Departments of Health, Children, Education and the Taoiseach are waiting for approval from the Department of Public Expenditure (DEPR) to launch the Pathfinder mental health initiative.

Mr Daly noted that the departments are now working with DPER to resolve some technical issues with the above proposals.

“A timeline to full implementation cannot yet be agreed as the participating departments have not received final approval from DPER,” he said.

The launch comes against the backdrop of recent reports revealing that mental health is an escalating issue for young people, parents and state institutions.

Pathfinder plans to create a structure where each of the four departments dealing with troubled children know what the others are doing.

The scheme has been described as key to opening up the effectiveness of health services to public and political scrutiny and as the first of its kind to be put forward by any government.

“We are currently embroiled in the tragic consequences of what happens if government becomes a maze without rigorous line management and clear systems of accountability,” said Mr Daly.

Responding to a parliamentary question from Tom Neville TD on the issue, Mr Daly said:

“This is a complex process to formalise a new model for collaborative working between Government departments.

This is a key initiative which will maximise the value of monies and resources being applied to youth mental health. In a new digital age, the well-being of our children is a growing challenge to parents, schools, communities and children.

A draft job description for the director of this new unit has already been prepared and the Department of Health has agreed to fund this post, subject to agreement with DPER.

Despite the challenges posed by joining four departments together, when asked for comment Mr Daly said: “Drafting is well advanced, and currently the draft text is with participating departments for review.”

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